State House, Banjul, 5th March 2023: President Adama Barrow this week convened his monthly meeting of the National Economic Council to get an update on the state of the economy at the State House in Banjul.
The presentations set the context of the domestic economy concerning the global situation, considering that the country relies heavily on imports for fuel and essential commodities and does minimal export of local products. This global situation continues to pose risks to inflation and a rise in the exchange rate, an upsurge in global commodity prices, and policy tightening.
The positive news was that the current reserves are sufficient to cover around 6.6 months of prospective imports of goods and services. The meeting was informed that the full recovery of the tourism sector, easing commodity price shock, and continued performance of private sector credit, agriculture, and infrastructure works puts the forecast for the Gambian economy to record a growth rate of 6.0 per cent in 2023.
Notwithstanding the challenges, the Central Bank of The Gambia sold foreign currency to the tune of US$ 136 million in a bid to provide the needed foreign exchange to import fuel and essential commodities through foreign exchange interventions while at the same time keeping inflation in check.
Meanwhile, the Central Bank collaborated with the Ministry of Gender, Women, Children and Social Welfare to provide a D15 million loan to the Women Enterprise Fund (WEF) to support women in increasing the domestic production of essential commodities such as onions, potatoes, and other similar products. It is also collaborating with other institutions to increase rice and poultry production and create employment for the youth through various interventions in support of the Government's development agenda. Domestic Revenue mobilisation has been impressive despite the country's numerous challenges. Collection in the fiscal year 2022 stood at D12.6 billion, representing a performance rate of 93.4 per cent. Government subsidy has reached D1.6 Billion to ease the burden on citizens, thus hindering GRA from reaching its domestic revenue collection target.
Impressed with the fiscal discipline and good governance practices, the Government garnered support from development partners such as the World Bank Group for its development Policy Operation to ensure Government's reform programmes remain on-course and unabated.
The governance reforms continue with new laws, modernising processes through digitalisation and automation, and bringing the banking sector regulatory and supervisory framework closer to international standards.
Following the signing of the Performance contract with SOEs, the Ministry of Finance will work with the office of the President was also briefed on the agreements with SOEs, which include accountability measures for performance – through incentives and compensation packages, as well as accountability measures for under-performance – through sanctions and similar punitive measures.
However, it was requested that MDAs strictly adhere to the budget and limit their expenses to the cash allocated during the fiscal year.
GRA is building on its processes to improve domestic collection further and seal leakages from tax payments. This calls for the full collaboration of all MDAs to enforce withholding tax on all contract payments for residents and non-residents.
The implementation of the Single Window System is expected to take effect in 2023. The system will integrate and connect all the stakeholders in the clearance process and is expected to bring greater efficiencies in Customs operations.
A similar effort is being made at the Accountant General's Department, operationalising the Payment Platform to improve revenue collection across all revenue collecting Institutions.
In addition, it developed a system to manage the payment of Alkalo's allowances, computation of pensions and Gratuities and rollout of the IFMIS system to improve accountability at the central and decentralised levels. In addition, the Extension of Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) to Autonomous Institutions uses IFMIS to minimise the check and cash handling risk. Meanwhile, in 2022, GIEPA awarded approval for investors to establish six (6) manufacturing and three (3) agriculture projects, with three (3) in Kanifing Municipality and six (6) in the West Coast Region, respectively.
To further professionalise the procurement processes, the GPPA embarked on reform strategies to review Institutional Systems and Practices. It had already assessed and provided authorisation certificates to twelve 12 institutions in its first engagement phase.
A regulation has been developed for interpreting and implementing the Law (GPP Act 2022) in terms of Government policy direction and reform to enhance operations. A Committee worked on the regulation of the implementation of the GPPA Act and completed a draft ready for validation retreat by procurement actors and stakeholders.
The Ministry of Trade reported that the total value of exports increased from D567 million in 2021 to D1.2 billion in 2022, representing a 124% increase in exports. The top main exports for 2022 are mainly edible fruits and nuts, fish and fishery products, and vegetables and processed nuts.
On the other hand, the total value of imports significantly increased from over D36.5 million in 2021 to close to D3.3 billion, representing an 8,918% increment in imports. The top main imports in 2022 are petroleum products, vehicles and spare parts, and cereals, mainly rice.
The US dollar shortage and the Dalasi depreciation increased domestic prices of most essential commodities in 2022, thus warranting government intervention. MOTIE pledged to continue engaging the Chinese Authorities to get more products approved, at least products like Groundnut, Cashew, Sesame, Fish and Cassava from The Gambia to be admitted to its market.
To enhance understanding of the labour market situation in the country, a National Labour Force Survey 2022 has been contracted to GBoS to provide a new base for the labour market data. This will also inform the types of jobs available for the target of 150,000 jobs in the next four years.
The Food Safety and Quality Authority commenced a systematic joint investigation in supermarkets, wholesale and retail shops about the complaint received from the Consumer Protection Consortium (CPC) over the presence of expired, unlabeled and inappropriately labelled products in the market. The inspection team found some expired products on shelves, FSQA disposed of all the expired food products, and GCCPC disposed of non-food products.
The Tourism and Culture sector secured a US 68 million dollar grant for diversification and resilience of the Tourism sector and successfully launched the project for implementation. There is an increase in tourists coming to the country, with a record of 182,795 arrivals this season, representing a 56% increase in the total number of arrivals in 2022 compared to 2021. It is poised to implement the Tourism Diversification and Resilience Project in 2023.
Meanwhile, funds have secured assistance from UNESCO to renovate the damaged visitor landing Jetty at Kunta Kinteh Island. The newly fix-landing Jetty is completed and is now safely used by visitors
One of the key economic sectors of the economy is agriculture. The sector reported that in 2022, through a partnership with a private sector, the Ministry of Agriculture could help about 5,600 Gambian farmers covering about 2,400 hectares of rice farms with proper water management through laser levelling. About 12.8 Km of canals were also dug to support farmers' timely access to water.
Efforts continue to be made by the Department of Livestock Services to control some of the common diseases through mass vaccination campaigns, and indications are that disease incidence has now reduced.
Six community vegetable gardens were started by the Nema Project in NBR (Kanuma and Yallal), CRR (Sololo Mandinka, Sitakoto, and Kunting), and URR (Sutukoba). Over 1000 women farmers benefitted directly from this intervention.
Quality vegetable seeds were distributed to 150 community gardens nationwide during rainy and dry seasons. More than fifteen thousand women farmers benefitted from increased yields and volumes marketed.
A contract was awarded on 6th April 2022 for the construction of 3 cold storage facilities to be located in Soma (LRR), Kaur (CRR North), and Basse (URR). The cold storage facilities are expected to minimise post-harvest losses for vegetables and empower women farmers with more substantial negotiating positions to realise better prices for their produce without fearing they would perish.